Jayhawks fight off No. 5 Texas in colossal home win despite Jalen Wilson’s struggles

Kevin McCullar Jr. #15 and Dajuan Harris Jr. #3 of the Kansas Jayhawks (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)
Kevin McCullar Jr. #15 and Dajuan Harris Jr. #3 of the Kansas Jayhawks (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images) /

Kansas would have been three games out of the first-place spot in the Big 12 had they been defeated on Monday, so it is a good thing that they pulled away with a crucial 88-80 win over No. 5 Texas.

There was a shortage of offense for the Jayhawks during Saturday’s loss to Iowa State, but that was not the case for this game. Even though only two threes connected for Kansas, they hit 32 field goals and 22 free throws en route to the win.

It was not a normal path to victory for the Jayhawks. Jalen Wilson, one of the front-runners for the National Player of the Year award, scored just 2 points in the contest on 1-7 shooting. It was a bizarre night for Wilson, who had not scored less than 11 points in a game the entire year. He hadn’t posted a point total that low since January of the 2021-22 season.

Bill Self had to turn to different faces to take down the Longhorns. MJ Rice and Ernest Udeh Jr. saw some minutes off the bench, but Joseph Yesufu was the X-factor for the Jayhawks. He posted 14 points in just 19 minutes, including this strong two-handed flush:

It was not the average win for the Jayhawks, but some unexpected things had to occur for them to come out on top. And this is something that we had rarely seen all season from this Kansas team.

When this year’s squad has faced adversity, we often see them crumble and have poor offensive possessions. After losing a 14-point lead in the first half and having their best player struggle all game, the Jayhawks adjusted their style of play. More importantly, though, Bill Self adjusted his rotations, opting for Yesufu down the stretch instead of Wilson.

It was a breath of fresh air to see Coach Self ride the momentum of the game in the Jayhawks favor. Ernest Udeh Jr. played perhaps the biggest minutes of his college career, and he excelled in his 8 minutes of action. The freshman provides the Jayhawks with size that they do not possess in KJ Adams. He made all three of his baskets, grabbed 2 rebounds, and recorded an assist.

Another player that was vital for the Jayhawks was Dajuan Harris, who was phenomenal in the win. He scored 17 points and had 5 assists, even recording 4 steals. Harris being aggressive on offense has been a boon for Kansas. In the 5 losses that the Jayhawks have suffered, Harris averages just 1.8 points per game, whereas his points average in games won is 9.4. Things never seem to go well for KU when Harris is not putting the ball in the net.

Not all wins are going to go down like this, but it can be argued that this victory was the most impressive one yet for the Jayhawks all season. They blew a lead, yet they eventually regrouped and held Texas off in the final minutes. Nothing about this win went the way it should, and that is okay. The best teams in March are those that are unpredictable.

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